Healthy tastes good, says author

Mairlyn Smith’s new cookbook Healthy Starts Here! contains 140 healthy recipes that should appeal to the whole family.

Spinach with Blackberries from Mairlyn Smith's cookbook "Health Starts Here!" by Whitecap.

Spinach with Blackberries from Mairlyn Smith's cookbook "Health Starts Here!" by Whitecap.

Mairlyn Smith’s new cookbook Healthy Starts Here! contains 140 healthy recipes that should appeal to the whole family.

When compiling the book, Smith hired a dietitian to go through each recipe and see how it would fit into a food plan of anyone living with diabetes versus just having to figure it out or having to buy a book that caters to diabetics. Anyone with heart conditions or osteoporosis, for instance, can also use this book.

“This makes it family friendly,” Smith explains. “I thought it was important to have a regular cookbook in which they were accepted too.”

Here are four recipes from the book, including introductory material from Smith. The grilled shrimp and two salads are ideal for spring and summer, while the brownies can be enjoyed year-round.

Grilled Garlic Shrimp

This recipe needs six large cloves of garlic to get the right hit of flavour. If the thought of peeling all that garlic seems daunting, try frozen garlic cubes, found in the frozen foods section of your supermarket or in their own mini-freezer in the produce aisle. All you do is open the package and add the right amount.

If you have any cooked shrimp left over, they taste great the next day served cold over a mixed green salad, drizzled with an oil and vinegar dressing.

6 large cloves garlic

500 g (1 lb) frozen uncooked extra-large shrimp (16 to 20 per 500 g/1 lb), thawed

1 lemon, scrubbed well and dried

1 lime, scrubbed well and dried

15 ml (1 tbsp) canola oil

1 to 2 ml (1/4 to 1/2 tsp) red pepper flakes

Mince garlic and set aside.

Wash your hands. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving their tails on. Place shrimp in a resealable plastic bag or in a shallow non-metallic baking dish. Set aside.

Wash your hands again. Remove 5 ml (1 tsp) zest from lemon and lime using a Microplane grater (resembles a woodworking rasp). Set zest aside.

With your palm, roll lemon and lime on the counter (this makes them yield more juice), then cut them in half and squeeze out 125 ml (1/2 cup) juice from the lemon and 45 ml (3 tbsp) juice from the lime.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, lime juice, oil, red pepper flakes and garlic.

Pour lemon juice mixture over the shrimp in the bag. Gently press air out of bag and seal it. Turn bag over once or twice to make sure marinade coats shrimp. (Or pour marinade over shrimp in dish, stir to coat, then cover dish.) Refrigerate shrimp for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Don’t marinate shrimp for longer or the acid from the citrus juices will start to cook the protein in the shrimp.)

Remove shrimp from bag or dish and discard marinade. Place shrimp on a plate and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Preheat barbecue to medium. Either grill shrimp directly on the barbecue or place in a mesh grill basket. Grill, with the lid down, turning often, until pink and firm, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove shrimp from grill and place on a clean plate. Sprinkle with reserved lemon and lime zest before serving. (Any leftover shrimp can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.) Makes 4 servings. One serving is about 5 shrimp.

Nutrition information per serving: 97 calories; 22 g protein; 1.5 g total fat; 1.2 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 255 mg sodium; 0.4 g carbohydrate; 0.1 g sugars; 0 g fibre.

Diabetes Food Choice Values per serving: 3 meat and alternatives

Spinach Salad With Blackberries

This gorgeous-looking salad is a summer treat. Big, juicy, ripe blackberries combine with spinach to make this a sweet-tart salad with just the right amount of dressing. Remember: it’s a dressing, not a drowning. We want the flavours of the foods to be complemented by the salad dressing, not annihilated.

In the health department, your body will be absolutely jumping for joy after each forkful of folate-rich, antioxidant-dense spinach and blackberries.

Blackcurrant Dressing

20 ml (4 tsp) canola oil

20 ml (4 tsp) apple cider vinegar

30 ml (2 tbsp) Ribena blackcurrant concentrate

5 ml (1 tsp) Dijon mustard

Spinach Salad

2 l (8 cups) lightly packed baby spinach

500 ml (2 cups) ripe juicy blackberries

20 ml (4 tsp) minced shallot

Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, Ribena and Dijon.

Salad: Rinse spinach under cold running water. Place in a salad spinner and spin-dry or pat dry on paper towels. Place in a large bowl.

Just before serving, rinse blackberries gently under cold running water. Place on paper towels (or on a clean tea towel that you don’t mind staining) and pat dry.

Pour salad dressing over spinach and toss well. Divide spinach evenly among 4 plates. Sprinkle each salad with 125 ml (1/2 cup) blackberries and 5 ml (1 tsp) minced shallot.

Makes 4 servings. One serving is one plateful.

Nutrition information per serving: 127 calories; 7 g fibre; 4 g protein; 5 g total fat; 0.4 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 97 mg sodium; 41.5 g sugars; 17.9 g carbohydrate.

Diabetes Food Choice Values per serving: 1 carbohydrate; 1/2 meat and alternatives; 1 fat.

Asian Barley Salad

Cholesterol-lowering barley, combined with two folate stars — peas and peanuts — makes this another heart-healthy dish. This is one of my all-time favourites for a summer dinner. Plan ahead and cook the barley the night before. Then, in the heat of the day, all you have to do is chop a couple of green onions, throw in some peas and peanuts, and toss it all with a great salad dressing.

Why red-skinned peanuts? There are loads more antioxidants to be had if you eat the skins, and every little bit helps, writes Smith.

250 ml (1 cup) pot barley

250 ml (1 cup) cooked fresh or thawed frozen peas

2 large green onions, thinly sliced

250 ml (1 cup) red-skinned peanuts

Peanut Dressing

30 ml (2 tbsp) natural peanut butter

30 ml (2 tbsp) rice vinegar

30 ml (2 tbsp) lower-sodium soy sauce

10 ml (2 tsp) wasabi paste

For the salad, the night before you want to serve it, place the barley in a wire-mesh colander and rinse it under cold running water. Place barley in a medium saucepan. Add 750 ml (3 cups) water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until barley is tender but chewy, 45 to 55 minutes. Stir once or twice to evenly distribute any remaining liquid. Remove saucepan from heat, fluff barley with a fork to separate grains and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff barley again, then let cool for 30 minutes. (Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.)

The next day, toss together barley, peas and green onions in a salad bowl.

Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce and wasabi paste. Pour over barley mixture and toss well.

Spoon salad into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with 50 ml (1/4 cup) peanuts. Serve immediately. Leftover salad can be covered and refrigerated overnight, but the barley absorbs the dressing so you may need to add a little more before serving.

Makes 1 l (4 cups). One serving is 250 ml (1 cup).

Nutrition information per serving: 483 calories; 24.1 g total fat; 3.1 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 354 mg sodium; 53.6 g carbohydrate; 14 g fibre; 5.9 g sugars; 19 g protein.

Diabetes Food Choice values per serving: 2 1/2 carbohydrate; 2 1/2 meat and alternatives; 3 1/2 fat.

Triple-Chocolate Brownie Cookies

I’ve been trying to make my own two-bite brownie ever since they appeared on supermarket shelves several years ago. My regular brownie recipe just didn’t hold up in those teeny-tiny muffin tins. After three creative attempts, I threw in the towel.

I’ve always thought that combining cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and chocolate chips was a really great idea, so when I started working on this recipe I had a stroke of genius: why not try for the two-bite brownie as a cookie? Even if they didn’t look great, I’d bet my membership in the Royal Society of Chocolate Lovers that they’d still taste great.

I was right. And on my first try!

So here, in my humble, card-carrying chocoholic opinion, is my next award-winning cookie, with the heart-healthy benefits of canola oil, natural cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and dark chocolate.

Cocoa nibs are what chocolate is made from, minus the sugar and milk products. They aren’t sweet.

175 ml (3/4 cup) packed dark brown sugar

90 ml (6 tbsp) canola oil

30 ml (2 tbsp) honey

1 omega-3 egg

10 ml (2 tsp) pure vanilla extract

125 ml (1/2 cup) natural cocoa powder

175 ml (3/4 cup) whole-wheat flour

50 ml (1/4 cup) cocoa nibs

50 ml (1/4 cup) chocolate chips with at least 60 per cent cocoa mass or chocolate chunks with at least 70 per cent cocoa mass

30 ml (2 tbsp) wheat germ

1 ml (1/4 tsp) baking soda

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat together brown sugar, oil, honey, egg and vanilla using electric beaters until the batter is creamy, about 3 minutes.

Beat in cocoa powder gently. Warning: turn those beaters to full throttle and you’ll be a cocoa-covered mess in seconds. Start beating on low speed, then increase the speed once the cocoa has been incorporated. Beat for 1 minute.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa nibs, chocolate chips, wheat germ and baking soda. Add flour mixture to cocoa mixture and blend until well mixed, about 1 minute. The batter will be really sticky.

Drop batter by rounded spoonfuls (10 ml/2 tsp), or use a mini-scoop, onto prepared baking sheet, spacing the cookies about 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart. Bake until the outside of the cookies are crunchy-looking and they have puffed up, 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t overbake these morsels. There aren’t a lot of things that taste worse than burned chocolate; OK, I can name three, but that’s for another day. My oven bakes these perfectly in exactly 9 minutes.

Let cookies cool slightly on the baking sheet before removing and letting them cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.

Makes 32 cookies (using 10 ml/2 tsp mini-scoop). One serving is 2 cookies.

Nutrition information per serving: 154 calories; 8.2 g total fat; 1.9 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 24 mg sodium; 19 g carbohydrate; 2 g fibre; 12.3 g sugars; 2 g protein.

Diabetes Food Choice Values per serving: 1 carbohydrate; 1 1/2 fat.

Source: “Healthy Starts Here!” by Mairlyn Smith (Whitecap, 2011).